Today is Maundy Thursday, when The Queen usually presents Maundy money to elderly members of the Church of England. This year, however, with the Covid-19 pandemic, has seen a change in how things work…
This Maundy Thursday tradition goes back to 1699, at the time of William III, but the Monarch did not begin to attend the event and personally hand out the coins until 1932 (with George V).
Each recipient is nominated by their local diocese for their contributions to both the church and their local community, and almost all are over the age of 70.
The Queen has only missed four Royal Maundy services in her reign, since she began attending in 1956. Services used to take place in a different location every year; for example, 2012 saw The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh head to York Minster for the day, and in 2017, it took place in Leicester. In fact, Elizabeth II has attended Maundy service at every cathedral in the UK!
The service has been kept to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in recent times, however, to lessen the burden of travel for Her Majesty.
The Queen, who is currently staying at Windsor Castle, sent all 188 recipients a letter along with the money. In the letter she explained how she was unable to distribute the money personally this year, at the service due to be held at St George’s Chapel.
Each recipient of Maundy money is given a red and a white purse; the red purse contains £5.50. This money represents the clothing and food that used to be given by the Monarch.
For 2020, the £5 commemorative coin marks the 200th birthday of William Wordsworth, while the 50p is a standard coin, set to mark the now-cancelled Olympic Games Team GB.
The white purse contains Maundy coins equalling the Sovereign’s age. The Queen’s Maundy money is, in fact, legal tender, but no one dares spend these silver coins due to their sentimental value and the silver in them – they are certainly not equal to face value!
The purses were blessed in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace a few weeks ago, before being sent out.
“This ancient Christian ceremony, which reflects Jesus’s instruction to his disciples to love one another, is a call to the service of others, something that has been at the centre of my life. I believe it is a call to service for all of us,” the Monarch wrote.
“It is one of my most rewarding duties as Sovereign to observe this highly significant ceremony at such an important point in the Christian calendar. I know that you, as a recipient of this year’s Maundy Gift, will be as deeply disappointed as I am that it is not going ahead, while understanding the necessary decision in the current circumstances.
“However, this should not mean your invaluable contribution within the community goes unnoticed, and I am sending this Maundy Gift to thank you for your Christian service.
“My thoughts and prayers are with you and your families at this difficult time.”
This eldest recipient of this years coins was Thomas Brock from Sunbury-on-Thames. Thomas is 101-years-old and holds the title of the oldest active bell-ringer in the world!
100-year-old Bill Allen also revived his Maundy coins today. Bill, from Chelmsford in Essex, was a dispatch rider with General Montgomery during the Second World War.
Mr Allen was recognised at the Maundy service for his dedication to the Leyton branch of the Royal British Legion, where he has volunteered for more than 30 years and speaks to schoolchildren about veterans.
“I was really looking forward to meeting my Queen and having a cup of tea with her,” he said. “That would have been the icing in the cake. I was very disappointed.”
“Hopefully I can live long enough to meet her one day. It would mean the world for me and couldn’t be a greater honour.
“I didn’t know the money would come through the post. It was such a surprise. It came by special delivery by motorcycle.”
He added: “I’m going to donate the coins to the St John’s Church, Leytonstone, when I die.”
Another recipient, retired teacher Jane Armstong, 76, has volunteered for more than 50 years, running youth clubs, crisis support groups and food banks at Woodhouse Close Church in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
Congratulations to all those who received their Maundy coins this year. Hopefully, next year will see the ceremony going ahead as normal.
Stay safe everyone, and stay inside!